Doncaster RLFC fell at the fifth round hurdle of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup for the second successive season when going down 26-16 against Featherstone Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium.
But the League One leaders, who were without several regular backs, produced a magnificent performance in defeat against a Featherstone team lying second in the Championship in what was a cracking tie.
They recovered from a shaky start to lead 14-10 at the interval and were still in the frame with less than ten minutes to go until Featherstone effectively put the game beyond them with a converted try by winger Shaun Robinson.
Featherstone, who had averaged 40 points in their last three away league games, started in confident style and took an early lead.
Winger Luke Briscoe touched down in the corner in the third minute following some neat handling in the Doncaster 20 from a penalty.
Rovers continued to dominate possession and territory and but for a wayward pass by stand-off Martyn Ridyard they would almost certainly have been in again.
But it only proved to be a stay of execution for the Dons, who didn’t help their cause by giving away several penalties, with Briscoe using his strength to force his way past several defenders close to the line for a try which Ridyard converted to make it 10-0.
Wing Aaron Jones-Bishop made amends for an earlier mistake in the build-up to Featherstone’s opening try when he rounded his marker 40 metres out before racing away and diving over in the corner for an unconverted 14th minute try.
The Dons drew level on 22 minutes when half-back Jack Miller, who also added the extras, sent second-rower Brad England through a gap 10m out.
Playing with increasing confidence and attacking flair the home side took the lead on 28 minutes when stand-off Jordan Howden put in a high kick to the corner which Jones-Bishop somehow managed to palm back inside to centre Jason Tali who touched down from close range to make it 14-10.
The Dons were the first to threaten after the break and went close from a 47th minute grubber kick by Howden.
The stand-off, who felt he had scored, was subsequently sin-binned for dissent.
Such was the intensity of the Doncaster defence that Rovers failed to cash in on their numerical advantage as handling errors continued to hamper their efforts.
Indeed, they fell further behind when Miller converted a 54th minute penalty.
It took a fine individual effort by former Castleford half-back Tom Holmes to get the better of the Doncaster defence. Ridyard again added the extras to level the scores shortly before Howden returned to the fray.
The Dons suffered a double blow shortly after – stand-in full-back Jack Sanderson limping off and Rovers Robinson squeezing in at the corner for a 58th minute unconverted try to put his side 20-16 ahead.
Despite having to reshuffle their back division, the Dons went close again through the lively Kieran Cross prior to Robinson’s deciding try.
Dons: Sanderson, Jones-Bishop, Welham, Tali, Doherty, Miller, Howden; Boyle, Kesik, Scott, England, Martin, Wilkinson. Subs: Spiers, Braham, Cross, Muranka.